The new chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities is unveiling an initiative to shift some federal funding for scholarship in the humanities toward addressing contemporary national issues.

William "Bro" Adams, who took charge of the endowment six months ago, said Thursday that academic fields including history, anthropology, literary studies and philosophy should become more public-facing to address national problems. He says humanities research has become specialized and narrowly focused on topics of interest to professional scholars.

Adams says he wants to encourage scholars to turn their attention to topics that resonate widely with the public. That could include the lessons of war, changing demographics, political polarization, balancing security with privacy and the ethics of biomedical technologies.

The shift could eventually involve millions of dollars in grant funding.